San Diego State defends handling of gang-rape allegation inquiry, says school followed guidance from local police

raiza, In their first public comments since a civil lawsuit was filed last week alleging three then-San Diego State football players raped a 17-year-old girl last year, athletic director John David Wicker and football coach Brady Hoke stressed the university reiterated the position that his response followed the instructions of the local police.

During a news conference Monday, Wicker defended the school administration’s decision to comply with a request from the San Diego Police Department to delay a campus-led investigation into the alleged gang rape until authorities complete their criminal investigation. The alleged attack happened at a Halloween party at an off-campus residence last October.

Both Wicker and Hoke read prepared statements condemning the allegations — which surfaced at length in a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court last Thursday — but initially refused to address follow-up questions from the assembled media.

“This is an active investigation, it is still ongoing. I will not provide specific information about the case or the players,” Hoke said. “I would like to reiterate that we have supported and continue to support the criminal investigation by the San Diego Police Department, and we also support the prosecutor’s review of the case. What supposedly happened should never happen.

“This shouldn’t happen to anyone. And what was important to us is that anyone who violates the law or university policies is held accountable.”

When the questioning didn’t move to the team’s season opener against Arizona, which will open SDSU’s new Snapdragon Stadium, Wicker and Hoke left the room. Wicker returned alone after a few minutes to answer questions about the sexual assault case, and Hoke later returned to discuss Saturday’s game.

The lawsuit alleges former SDSU player Matt Araiza, who was 21 at the time, had sex outside of an off-campus party with a then 17-year-old high school grad who was underage in California at his home in the early morning of Oct. 17, 2021. The lawsuit says Araiza then took her to the home, where at least three other men, including the two other defendants named in the lawsuit — Araiza’s former Aztec teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko — were found and that she was repeatedly raped for about an hour and a half. The lawsuit alleges that her nose, navel and ear piercings were ripped out during the act and that she was bleeding from her vagina.

Leonard’s name was removed from the SDSU list after the lawsuit was filed and Ewaliko was not on the list when training camp began. Wicker confirmed both players are no longer with the team but declined to answer specific questions about them or Araiza.

Araiza, a sixth-round NFL draft pick for the Buffalo Bills, was released by the team Saturday, two days after the lawsuit was filed. Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who is representing Araiza in the criminal investigation, dismissed the allegations as untrue based on the findings of an investigator he hired.

in one long statement submitted to ESPN On Monday, Araiza’s parents, Rico and Kerry, said their son had been sentenced early by the court of public opinion.

“He was blackmailed, discriminated against, harassed and repeatedly and continuously threatened with violence and death. He has been fired from his job and our entire family continues to receive horrific threats of violence and death,” the statement read in part. “We’ve all been cancelled. Every member of our family.

“Rogue rumors became fact. There are several testimonies to refute the allegations made against him. The legal system is designed to find the facts and make decisions. They should be allowed to do that.”

According to San Diego State, the school became aware of a report of an off-campus sexual assault on October 18, 2021 and the existence of a San Diego police investigation the following day. After the Title IX Bureau began its assessment, it received a request from the Police Department to postpone its investigation so as not to jeopardize the police investigation. The school said it complied.

“You always want to get to the bottom of allegations as quickly as possible, and that wasn’t just a decision by the sports department,” Wicker said. “This was a decision taken at all levels of governance in the institution to move this process forward. I still firmly believe that letting the SDPD conduct the investigation was the right way to go.”

Wicker said this even included an informal investigation, such as when a coach asks a player if they heard anything.

“SDPD asked us not to investigate. If we start asking questions, you can tip someone off and we won’t investigate,” Wicker said.

Nearly three weeks after the alleged attack, the state of San Diego brought in Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and sexual assault prevention educator and speaker, to speak with the football team and other male athletes. According to Wicker, the decision to bring Tracy on campus was prompted by “an incident that was reported to us and the SDPD was investigating.

At this point, Wicker said, they had not been given the names of the suspects.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Araiza’s name related to the rape allegation appeared in at least one report by student athletes to San Diego State officials through an anonymous reporting system within days of the party.

When asked if he was aware of this anonymous report, Hoke said, “I wasn’t aware of it.”

When asked when he first mentioned Araiza’s name, Wicker said, “We had no confirmation from anyone involved with the event until the civil suit was dropped.”

tracy, in a statement Sunday nightDuring her visit to the campus, she was informed by a sports employee that “there was an incident,” she said.

Wicker dismissed the suggestion that San Diego State coaches were trying to sweep allegations under the rug over the football team’s success.

“That’s absolutely not true,” Wicker said. “We will hold every student, every coach, every staff member accountable for whatever is confirmed and decided. It’s absolutely not true that we swept this under the rug because it was football, because we had a successful season. That doesn’t mean who we are. That’s not me. This calls my morals and ethics into question and no, that is not true.”

When asked why he returned to Monday’s press conference after originally leaving, Wicker said, “We just have to answer the questions.” He added that it was his decision to come back alone, without Hoke.

No arrests have been made in the case and police have not publicly identified any suspects. The results of the police investigation are available to the public prosecutor’s office, but there is no timetable for a decision on whether to bring charges. SDSU said it was cleared by the SDPD on July 22 to launch a campus investigation.

ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34485207/san-diego-state-defends-handling-gang-rape-allegation-inquiry-says-school-followed-guidance-local-police San Diego State defends handling of gang-rape allegation inquiry, says school followed guidance from local police

Emma Bowman

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